We can advise you on any aspect of family rights – for example, maternity or adoption leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave and time off to care for dependants. We are commonly engaged by women who are concerned that their pregnancy or maternity leave is the cause of unfavourable treatment at work. If you find yourself affected by this, we can help you to understand your rights, and advise you on how to proceed.
What maternity rights are you entitled to in the UK?
All employees must take a minimum of 2 weeks’ maternity leave starting with the day on which childbirth occurs. This is known as compulsory maternity leave. This is extended to four weeks for certain factory workers.
Employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks’ statutory maternity leave (including any period of compulsory maternity leave). This is made up of 26 weeks of “Ordinary Maternity Leave” and 26 weeks of “Additional Maternity Leave”. Both forms of maternity leave are available to employees regardless of their length of service.
If a woman takes “Ordinary Maternity Leave” and returns to work before the end of 26 weeks she is entitled to return to the same job. Her terms must be no less favourable than they would have been had she not been absent, unless a redundancy situation has arisen. Similarly after “Additional Maternity Leave” employees are entitled to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions although an employer has slightly more flexibility to adjust an employee’s role. In these cases, if it is not reasonably practicable for an employee to return to their role they will be entitled to return to a different job that is suitable and appropriate, on terms and conditions that are no less favourable
Other Maternity Rights
In addition, pregnant employees have a handful of additional rights:
The right to paid time off for antenatal appointments.
Health and safety protection while pregnant and breastfeeding.
Statutory maternity pay (subject to eligibility).
Priority for alternative employment in redundancy situations.
Protection from dismissal, detriment or discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth or due to taking maternity leave.
Do all employers have to pay maternity leave?
Yes - All employers must pay statutory maternity pay to employees taking maternity leave if they are eligible.
Some employers choose to pay more than statutory minimums. This is often called company, contractual or enhanced maternity pay. There is no legal obligation or requirement to do this.
Who is eligible for maternity pay?
An employee will be eligible to receive statutory maternity pay if they earn over the “Lower Earnings Limit” for National Insurance purposes have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks ending with the “Qualifying Week” (which is the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth) and comply with the rules on notifying their employer of their pregnancy and proposed dates for statutory maternity pay.
Statutory maternity pay is payable for up to 39 weeks. You get:
90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
£156.66 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.
Employers may be able to recoup some or all of statutory maternity pay paid from the government depending upon their size.
Staff that are not eligible for statutory maternity pay may qualify for “Maternity Allowance” which is a social security benefit administered by the Department for Work and Pensions and JobCentre plus.
Do you get leave from work if you adopt?
Yes - adoption leave can be taken by adopters. If a couple are adopting they must decide which of them is to be the “adopter” for the purposes of taking statutory adoption leave and receiving statutory adoption pa.
The framework is similar to the rights afforded for maternity leave and pay.
How long is adoption leave in the UK?
The adopter will receive up to 52 weeks’ statutory adoption leave, and up to 39 weeks’ statutory adoption pay.
How much paternity leave are you entitled to?
Eligible employees are entitled to take either one or two consecutive weeks’ paternity leave. This must be taken within 56 days of a child’s birth or placement for adoption.
In order to be eligible an individual must:
Have sufficient service with their employer (in birth cases this is 26 weeks of service ending with the week immediately preceding the expected week of childbirth, and in adoption cases this is 26 weeks ending with the week in which the adopter is notified of a match.
Have a qualifying relationship with either the child, the child’s mother, or (in adoption cases) the adopter. In birth cases they must be the child’s biological father or be the spouse, partner or civil partner of the child’s mother. Different relationships qualify in surrogacy or adoption cases.
Have or expect to have sufficient degree of responsibility for the child’s upbringing.
Not have already taken shared parental leave in respect of the same child.
Complied with the requirement to give their employer adequate notice of their intention to take paternity leave by giving details of the expected week of childbirth, the length of paternity leave they intend to take, and the date they wish their leave to start. These details should be provided no later than the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
If you are not eligible you will not be able to take paternity leave.
Do employers have to pay paternity leave?
Yes. All employers must pay statutory maternity pay to employees taking paternity leave if they are eligible.
The rate of pay is the lesser of the prescribed rate fixed by the government each year, or 90% of the employee’s normal weekly earnings.
Employers may be able to recoup some or all of this from the government depending upon their size.
Some employers choose to pay more than statutory minimums. This is often called company, contractual or enhanced paternity pay. There is no legal obligation or requirement to do this
How much time off for family and dependants am I entitled to?
Regardless of the length of service, employees have a right to take reasonable unpaid time off where it is necessary in certain situations related to their dependants. This right only covers the time needed for specific situations such as:
To provide assistance if a dependant falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted;
To make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured;
In consequence of death of a dependant;
To deal with unexpected disruption in care arrangements for a dependant; or
To deal with an unexpected incident which involves their child during school hours.
The scheme is designed to cover short periods of time off (a few hours or a day or two depending upon the circumstances) to cope with emergencies. Longer term absence should be dealt with in some other way (i.e. holiday, unpaid agreed time off, some other arrangement with your employer). Employees need to ensure they communicate their absence, how long it is likely to last, and reasons for it to their employer as soon as possible.
Who is classed as immediate family for compassionate leave?
There is no general statutory definition for this, because under the law in England and Wales there is no statutory right to compassionate leave (save for certain cases of parental bereavement since 6 April 2020). In most cases it will depend upon what your employer’s own policy says on the subject. You should speak to your employer to find out their rules.
Does my employer have to give me flexible working?
Employee’s don’t have an automatic right or entitlement to work flexibly. However, most employees have a right to ask and have their request considered carefully. A failure to agree to a request might, depending on the facts, give rise to a claim against your employer, particularly if the refusal particularly disadvantages you because your request was associated with a disability, childcare commitments, or religious requirements. If you need assistance formulating a request, or think you request has been unreasonably refused we can advise you on your options.
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Speak to Family Rights Solicitors based in Oxford.
If you're looking for assistance or want to speak to solicitors about your Family Related Rights or a related issue then don't hesitate to reach out to us at Julian Taylor HR. We're experts in employment HR issues, and whilst we're based in Bicester, Oxford, we're able to deal with clients all over the UK.